01 April 2021

Lucrative crop

Not the trees.  The needles.
The longleaf pine’s most obvious attribute is its strong, straight timber — perfect for utility poles.

But the reason that longleaf pines are prized around here: their needles.

The dropped needles are in such demand that a lucrative business has grown up around raking, baling and selling them to landscapers and homeowners as mulch. Three varieties of pine needles are farmed, but the discarded debris of a longleaf pine is the most sought-after — and fetches the best price — because of its unusual length and high resin content, making it an attractive, water-retaining ground cover for gardens....

He could get $4,000 an acre for clear-cutting his mature longleaf pines for timber. Or, he said, he could earn $1,200 an acre collecting pine needles from the same trees — every year... His workers are paid by the bale. It’s tough, seasonal work. But they can earn $900 a week, Wilson said. He recalled one notably efficient worker who pulled in $1,400 a week.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in NC in the 80s and pine needle mulch was pretty much the norm, far more common than any other kind. Now, living on the west coast, I'd completely forgotten about it!

    Pine needle mulch is great. It's cheap, it's really easy to haul and spread out, and when the needles fall off the trees it just blends right in. Downside is that it's somewhat unruly and won't fall flat right away, so your planter bed will look kind of pillowy at first.

    I don't miss the pines, though. They're always first to go during heavy winds or ice, as they have very shallow root systems, and their abundant sap makes cutting them up a hassle and burning them a very smoky, very sticky affair.


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